Home India ‘Times ...

‘Times have changed, so have forms of protest’

0
//
Prabir Roy, JU Professor at the rally

By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra

Kolkata: Twenty three organisations of the West Bengal cultural forum took part in the first protest on intolerance organized in Kolkata, on November 7, in front of the Academy of Fine Arts, also called the Ranu Chhaya Mancha.

Organisations such as the West Bengal Ganatantric Lekhak Shilpi Shongo, Bharatiya Gonoshonskriti Shongo, and eminent personalities including advocate Bharati Mutsuddi, artist Samir Aich, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Prabir Roy, and noted poet Mandakranta Sen took part in the protest rally.

NewsGram asked Samir Aich on his opinion regarding Shah Rukh Khan being termed a national threat. He said that those calling the Bollywood star a terrorist were themselves so. He commended the move undertaken by so many writers and scholars all over India in returning their awards as a protest against the rising intolerance in the country.

“A person is entitled to his own language and form for the protest. If one believes that returning his or her award is the way to protest, then the person has every right to do so! Why is this being questioned in the first place? India is walking towards a grave direction. This is nothing less than what the country saw in 1984,” said Aich.

Prabir Roy, Bengali professor from Jadavpur University, said that the issue was being taken in to a different direction by citing ‘international conspiracy’ and ‘foreign hands’. “This slant that is being given to the intolerant situation is diverting the common people and distracting us from the real issue. Certain groups, certain sections of the society are endorsing an autocratic regime. The way religion is being promoted right now has to stop. Otherwise, the demise of this nation is imminent.”

“I have never seen such a thing in my entire political career,” said former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. “I am afraid Kolkata might go back to the dark times of the 1945-46 riots.”

“India is a secular country and people of different communities have lived together here for years, even long before the British came to India,” said advocate Bharati Mutsuddi to NewsGram. “In this aspect, India is different from most other countries in the world. The Hindutva ideals being promoted by BJP and RSS which project the country as a Hindu nation, where people are being killed for eating beef, is dangerous to India’s basic essence and might even lead us to civil war.”

On being asked why no such initiative was taken during the dire situation of the 1984 Sikh riots or the Babri Masjid issue, she said that several protests were carried out during the time as well. “A bandh was even called by the then ruling Left front government in Bengal as a protest against the riots embroiling the nation. But the times have changed now, and so has the form of protest,” said the advocate citing the growing awareness of the population due to the advent of social media.

Mutsuddi also spoke out against the political colour given to these protests by the media. “Every protestor is not affiliated to a political party just because they are speaking against an issue and carrying out a protest. The media has taken it on themselves to label protests as a Congress Movement or a BJP one. This is what they have always done!”

She further elaborated that individuals such as historian Irfan Habib and writer Arundhati Roy were not involved in any party activities, but the fact that they were returning their awards to protest against the intolerance issue should show what condition our country was in.

“People need to realise that everyone is entitled to a political thought process, even though they are not necessarily affiliated to any political party,” added Mudshuddi.

Bharati Mudshuddi (centre) with others at the rally
Advocate Bharati Mutsuddi (centre) with others at the rally

 

Next Story

U.S President Donald Trump Likely to Announce Sales Worth Billions During Visit to India

In India, Trump Hopes for Crowds of Millions, Sales Worth Billions

0
Donald Trump
Children from an art school make paintings of U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of his India visit, in Mumbai, India. VOA

By Steve Herman

U.S. President Donald Trump departed for India Sunday on a 36-hour trip, having acknowledged he will not be returning home with an anticipated big trade deal.

“I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” Trump told reporters last week. “I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we’ll have a very big deal with India.”

There is mutual agreement on dozens of elements for the pact, but several contentious sectors are unresolved, including medical devices, according to sources close to the talks.

“Whether or not there will be an announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” a senior administration official told reporters Friday. “That said, we have a number of significant commercial deals, which are of great significance that we’re very pleased to announce in a number of key sectors.”

First trip to India

On his maiden voyage to the South Asian country, Trump is likely to announce a sale worth several billion dollars for military helicopters and, possibly, a missile defense system, amid rising mutual concern about China’s military expansion, which has prompted closer defense cooperation between Washington and New Delhi.

Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters upon his arrival in Colorado Springs, Colorado. VOA

Indian officials are said to be perplexed that U.S. officials halted trade negotiations just before the Trump visit, expressing a view that Washington pursued brinksmanship that failed in the face of a more patient India, which is the world’s fifth biggest economy.

“There’s no great hurry here” to finalize a trade pact, retired veteran senior Indian diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan in India told VOA.

“I was personally a little bit surprised that the two sides weren’t able to get this deal done,” Jeff Smith, South Asia research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said.

Promised a crowd

The president, at a political rally Thursday, said the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told him he will be greeted by up to 10 million people when Air Force One lands in Modi’s home state of Gujarat Monday morning.

“That’s simply not possible. Even 1 million is difficult,” said Sreenivasan, who added that among Indians, “nobody will bother about numbers” and even if Trump claims he was hailed by millions, “that’s not likely to be an issue of contention.”

Indian officials, quoted by local media, predict a more modest crowd of about 100,000 to 150,000 (plus 12,000 police officers) when the president arrives for the dedication of the world’s largest cricket stadium — part of an event billed as “Namaste, Trump.”

“Some people say” the visit to Gujarat will be the “biggest event they’ve ever had in India,” Trump said before departing Sunday.

Pre-trip beautification effort

A small army of workers has been deployed ahead of Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad to build a 400-meter-long wall along the motorcade route to block the view of where poor people live. The hurried beautification project also includes the placement of about 150,000 flowerpots.

“It will be similar to the landmark ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event hosted by the Indian American community in honor of Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Houston in September 2019, in which President Trump participated,” India’s foreign secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, told reporters in the capital, New Delhi.

“The visit will primarily be one for pomp, show and symbolism,” said Aparna Pande, the director of the Hudson Institute Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia. “It matters to two nationalist populist leaders that they can demonstrate to their domestic audience and to the world that they have a reliable partner and ally.”

After the stadium event in Ahmedabad and before heading to New Delhi, the president and first lady Melania Trump will make a quick visit to the country’s most famous tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal.

Indian media reported Agra will be on lockdown for the visit, although there is concern about controlling the menacing monkeys roaming the grounds of the 17th century Mughal marble mausoleum.

“The forest department has been requested to ensure that the monkeys stay away from the Taj during Donald Trump’s visit,” Archaeological Survey of India Superintending Archaeologist Vasant Kumar Swarnkar was quoted telling India Today.

Bilateral talks

In India’s capital, bilateral talks are to focus on contemporary concerns.

Indian officials could raise Trump’s hard line on immigration.

“They view the immigration issue, whether it is offering visas to students or the H-1B highly skilled visas or the green card issue, as becoming worse in the last four years,” Pande told VOA.

It is uncertain whether Trump will discuss the issue of Kashmir.

Six months after Modi ended Kashmir’s special status under India’s constitution, local politicians there remain detained and internet service is restricted.

Trump “is not always very thoughtful when he talks about such issues, particularly Kashmir. So that’s a bee in his bonnet and it’s going to come up in some form,” Sreenivasan, a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, predicted.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Trump to help resolve the dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbors over Kashmir, something the U.S. president has previously indicated he is willing to do. But Modi has strongly rebuffed offers from third parties to mediate.

Indian officials are apprehensive about Trump commenting on the Kashmir issue during the visit.

Donald Trump Security Force personnel patrol at the historic Taj Mahal premises in Agra
Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel patrol at the historic Taj Mahal premises, where U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are expected to visit, in Agra, India. VOA

“He might say that ‘I’m a great dealmaker and I can resolve Kashmir.’ But let’s hope he doesn’t,” Pande, of the Hudson Institute, said.

Controversial citizenship bill

Some members of the U.S. Congress are also expressing concern about Modi’s controversial move to give Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries — unless they are Muslims.

Trump, during the India visit, will raise such matters, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is “extremely important to this administration,” according to a senior administration official.

“Attempts to lecture, coerce, punish, intervene in India’s affairs have traditionally not been particularly effective,” Smith, of the Heritage Foundation, said.

Trump will be the fourth consecutive U.S. president to travel to India, continuing the shift in allegiance by Washington to Delhi from India’s archrival and neighbor.

Khan, after a recent meeting with Trump during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said the U.S. president also promised to visit Pakistan soon.

Also Read- France Takes Steps to Shift to More Renewables For Energy

If “there is no complementary visit to Pakistan or no side agreement on some other way to assuage concerns there, then I think Pakistan will take it as a slight,” said Richard Russow, senior adviser for U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (VOA)

Next Story

New YouTube Update Helps Creators Address Copyright Issues

It's now easier for YouTube creators to address copyright issues

0
YouTube
YouTube has updated its Studio Dashboard so that users can now have a clearer view of which videos contain copyrighted material. Pixabay

In a bid to make things easier for creators when dealing with copyright issues, YouTube has updated its Studio Dashboard so that users can now have a clearer view of which videos contain copyrighted material and have the option to quickly removing the offending sections.

The videos tab shows a new column called “Restrictions,” which lets creators quickly see which uploads are affected.

YouTube
This update by YouTube has made it easier for creators to deal with copyright issues. Pixabay

Clicking through shows details like which parts of the video contain the offending media, who initiated the claim and who owns the copyrighted content. If the claim is for a piece of music, the user can replace or mute the track, Engadget reported on Friday.

Notably, copyright disputes between creators and music labels or third-party companies are a consistent problem on the video sharing platform.

Also Read- Twitter to End Support for Animated PNG Files

This update will help creators keep their videos monetised, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue, the report added. (IANS)

Next Story

U.S. Media Industry Going Through A Bad Phase

On the surface, it may look as though the average U.S. media consumer is awash in choices: websites, podcasts, cable and broadcast TV, satellite, but this is not the reality

0
US, Media, News, Downfall, State
Some front pages and section fronts of the Orange County Register are seen in the newsroom in Santa Ana, Calif., Dec. 27, 2012. VOA

On the surface, it may look as though the average U.S. media consumer is awash in choices: websites, podcasts, cable and broadcast TV, satellite and over-the-air radio, and yes, even printed newspapers. But the reality is different.

There is an oft-quoted line from Thomas Jefferson about the importance of a free press to the stability of the newly formed United States: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government,” he wrote to a colleague, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Almost always, though, the words Jefferson wrote next are forgotten. He added, “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”

His insight was that a press free from government interference is a necessary condition for a healthy democracy, but not a sufficient one. A free press isn’t very useful if nobody has access to relevant reporting on the issues that affect them.

If Jefferson were able to look at the media landscape in his country today, particularly at the local level, he would almost certainly be worried.

Consolidation

News sources, particularly local ones, are increasingly controlled by a limited number of companies that have bought up smaller news organizations and consolidated them.

This is perhaps most visible in the world of newspapers. Twenty percent of the newspapers that were active 15 years ago have been shut down, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving hundreds of locales without a local paper.

US, Media, News, Downfall, State
A specialist works at the post that handles Gannett on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Aug. 5, 2014. VOA

Employment in newspaper newsrooms has fallen by 47% since 2004, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, companies like GateHouse Media and Gannett  control hundreds of publications using centralized news gathering that decreases the focus on their communities.

In August, the two companies announced a plan to merge, a deal that would create a company controlling more than 250 daily newspapers, as well as hundreds more weeklies and community papers. The merged companies would be several times larger than the next biggest newspaper company, Digital First Media, which in 2018 owned 51 daily papers and 158 other publications.

Digital First, which is owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, has been at the forefront of another troubling trend: buying up newspapers, laying off newsroom staff, and liquidating the papers’ real estate assets.

Digital First, which also goes by MediaNews Group, or MNG, did not respond to a request for comment from VOA. However, in response to a Washington Post story earlier this year, the company said “MNG is committed to the newspaper business and a long-term investor in the space. MNG’s focus is on getting publications to a place where they can operate profitably and sustainably and continue to serve their communities.”

Job cuts, quick profits

“They’re owned, essentially, by private equity companies, or even hedge funds at times, and they don’t particularly care about the quality of the journalism,” said Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post and former public editor of The New York Times.

US, Media, News, Downfall, State
Two New York Daily News employees leave the newspaper’s office after they were laid off, in New York, July 23, 2018. VOA

“What they’re there to do is to strip mine these properties and get as much profit from them as they can in the short term. And that is very bad for journalism. It’s very bad for journalists, because it often means round after round of job reductions, cutting costs in really draconian ways that hurt the news gathering process.”

Newspapers are not typically seen as a major profit-making venture. While they generate significant cash flow through advertising sales, that is offset by high production costs of personnel and the logistics of printing and delivery. Many are run by family foundations and other organizations that place some value on their public mission.

The strategy of many investment firms buying up newspaper chains has been to increase profits by slashing personnel costs.

In the broadcast world, the story is similar. Large companies have been buying up local stations and cutting costs by centralizing the production of much of the content they air. Most notorious among them is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 193 stations across the country, reaching up to 40% of the U.S. population.

Sinclair is known for enforcing a sharply conservative political slant on its broadcasts, providing “must-run” content that appears on every station the company owns. It regularly requires its stations to air commentary by Boris Epshteyn, a friend of President Donald Trump’s family and a former political consultant to the president.

Last year, a video went viral in which dozens of Sinclair anchors could be seen repeating, verbatim, a script that echoed Trump’s complaints about “fake news.”

Easing antitrust

Rules that formerly limited the ability of individual companies to own a dominant share of the media outlets in a specific market have been slowly eased over the years. Then, in 2017, the Federal Communications Commission gutted many of the remaining restrictions, opening the door to single companies dominating individual markets in both broadcast and print.

US, Media, News, Downfall, State
Hundreds of old newspaper vending machines are shown in a vacant lot near the former offices of the Alaska Dispatch News in Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 11, 2017. VOA

The resulting consolidation has been “disastrous for local communities,” said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, an organization that advocates for the decentralization of media. “We’ve gone from a more diverse localized media system to one increasingly controlled by a small handful of companies.”

 

“You used to get in your car in New York and drive to, I don’t know, Phoenix,” said Aaron. “Everywhere along the way, you would get incredibly different local voices, local flavors, local music. Now, you’re much more likely to get the same hit songs and Rush Limbaugh. So, we’ve lost some of that, you know, which I think has huge cultural value.”

The impact goes beyond culture, though, as Aaron and others have pointed out. It also has a direct impact on how Americans govern themselves.

“When sources of local and regional news dry up or go away,” Sullivan said, “there’s research that shows that the way people engage politically changes. They are going to be less likely to vote, they become more polarized, because for many years, the local newspaper might have been a way that people in that community were sharing a set of facts. Now, that’s gone or diminished.”

Last year, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Universityassembled a list of academic studies that tied the loss of local news sources to a decline in both the quantity and quality of citizens’ civic engagement.

Social media news

To fill the gap, Sullivan said, people turn to less objective sources of news, like Facebook, or politically partisan cable television programming.

US, Media, News, Downfall, State
An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

“It is really a very damaging thing for the way we talk to each other, the way we feel as a community and the way we deal with politics,” Sullivan said.

Identifying the disease and cataloging the symptoms is one thing. But finding a cure that will return the U.S. to a more Jeffersonian media model won’t be easy.

Sullivan argued that the growth of nonprofit news organizations is a hopeful sign that an alternative to corporatized media may be available. Groups such as Report for America provide funding so that young journalists can work in local media outlets, providing them important training while supplementing understaffed news outlets.

Some nonprofit publications like The Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego have been able to make important contributions to their communities.

ALSO READ: ‘Safarnama’ App to “Capture the Way History in Delhi Actually Held within and under Stones” in Short Bursts

But nonprofits can’t bridge the gap entirely, and Sullivan and others worry that the advertising-dependent business model of traditional journalism — particularly newspapers — has been so thoroughly broken by the rise of digital media that trying to rebuild it on the same design will be impossible.

That’s why Aaron and his organization want the federal government to get involved. Free Press argues for a return to tighter federal restrictions on media consolidation, including the breakup of existing conglomerates. They also call for federal investment through grants or tax incentives to support local news.

“If local journalism is important to making sure democracy survives, then we need the policies to actually match that need,” he said. “And right now, we don’t have them.” (VOA)

‘Times have changed, so have forms of protest’
U.S President Donald Trump Likely to Announce Sales Worth Billions During Visit to India
New YouTube Update Helps Creators Address Copyright Issues
U.S. Media Industry Going Through A Bad Phase